Ado Ekiti (ABUAD), Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), a legal luminary and founder of Afe Babalola University, has characterized as unconstitutional the federal government’s mass closure of Nigerian universities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Such action, Babalola said, will prove to be counterproductive and devastating for the education sector, especially the closure without prior consultation of private schools.
Babalola spoke at a press conference yesterday in Ado Ekiti, sharing his views on the federal government’s attempt to delay the resumption of universities earlier scheduled for 18 January.
He referred to the statement attributed to the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, that the previous January 18 scheduled for school resumption by the federal government would be checked.
The legal symbol expressed opposition to the mass closing of universities: “I am of the firm opinion that the mass closure of schools is unconstitutional, catastrophic and counterproductive.”
“It is certainly unfair to parents, teachers, students and school owners, and it also violates the principle of natural justice,” he said.
Babalola revealed that all of these had been taken into account by the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention when it officially proposed that preferential treatment under ColOVID-19 should be given to universities in terms of operations.
“The USCDC said that universities vary in terms of scale, geographical location, structure and capacity to enforce measures in place that guarantee minimum risk to students and teachers in their colleges, which in turn would ensure students’ undisrupted and on-campus learning.
On the opposite, universities that do not have these facilities are in the category of high risk.
I strongly advise hereby that the federal government should avoid schools being closed down by the masses. All colleges, particularly private universities that have the requisite world-class health facilities and have complied with the regulations of the Presidential Task Force that will allow them to introduce low medium risk measures, should not and should not be shut down.
“It is unfair to shut them down with those who do not have such facilities and violates natural justice and therefore unconstitutional times.”
Before sudden disruption by COVID-19, he said his eleven-year-old university had a smooth and uninterrupted academic calendar, thus stalling operations and closing the university amid world-class facilities it parades to prevent the spread of the lethal disease.
FG should know that schools in Ekiti are better than those located in the heart of Lagos,” the legal luminary added.” The geographical position we have to remember. Any worker here who goes to Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt goes for special test and seven days of isolation. It stresses the extent of our preparedness.
He called on the federal government to mimic foreign countries by paying private university lecturers’ wages, which were shut down due to COVID-19.
Babalola informed the FG that if low-risk private universities remained shut down to wait for high-risk universities, the ivory towers would remain comatose for a long time.
Babalola said: “I am not going to court, because we have not exhausted the option of negotiation and local remedy, as to whether he will approach the court to challenge the closure of private universities.” I am a friend of the FG, and I know it will be investigated by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).’
Babalola explains how his university has been negatively affected: “We can not even quantify our losses.” We were following the international standard before this worldwide problem, which was an academic session from September to July.
In ten years, we have completed seven convocations. We used to pay salaries on the 24th of the month, and despite this suspension of work, nobody was sacked. But our purse was affected by that. How can we pay for services that have not been delivered? It’s unfair.
That is why we call on the federal government to pay the salaries of private university employees if they still want to proceed with the closure. In foreign countries, that was the approach adopted.